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Venezuela's executive tells private station to change its reporting

Since March 5, 2013, directors of Globovisión, a private TV station, have received calls from the Minister of Communications and Information, Ernesto Villegas, who has allegedly threatened to control their content regarding the death of the president Hugo Chávez, as well as information on the changes in the executive power.

Directors of the TV channel said that on seven opportunities Villegas has called the station by phone and has told them in an intimidating tone to be mindful of the information they disclose. María Fernanda Flores told IPYS-Venezuela that Villegas told them that if any civil disobedience action took place in the country, the directors of Globovisión would be held responsible.

On March 7, 2013, in an interview on Venezolana de Televisión (VTV), the state-owned channel, Elias Jaua, Minister of Foreign Affairs, urged the media to handle their information carefully, to keep a balanced outlook and not to prompt destabilization. "This is not the time to echo political analyses that could taunt our mourning people", he said. He also admitted that that morning Ernesto Villegas had called the media representatives and had said that they should regulate their content.

Also on March 6, channel employees filed a complaint at the Public Ministry on the threats proffered by representatives of the executive power against the media, and the hate-filled discourse against the work of the media. “Declarations by top officials use an official discourse that is instigating physical and verbal assaults against the workers of Globovisión and guarantee impunity for the aggressors”, they expressed in their complaint.

Since March 5, men on motorcycles identified as supporters of the official party have repeatedly surrounded the channel's offices. That same day, a reporting crew was threatened by some armed men outside the headquarters of Globovisión.

So far this year, IPYS-Venezuela has documented 14 cases of violations to freedom of expression affecting Globovisión and its journalists. These types of threats and actions could result in prior censorship, which is expressly prohibited in article 57 of the Constitution of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela.

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